Middle English

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{language, word, form}
{god, call, give}
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Middle English is the name given by historical linguists to the diverse forms of the English language in use between the late 11th century and about 1470, when the Chancery Standard, a form of London-based English, began to become widespread, a process aided by the introduction of the printing press to England by William Caxton in the late 1470s. By that time the variant of the Northumbrian dialect (prevalent in Northern England) spoken in southeast Scotland was developing into the Scots language. The language of England as used after this time, up to 1650, is known as Early Modern English.

Unlike Old English, which tended largely to adopt Late West Saxon scribal conventions in the period immediately before the Norman conquest of England, written Middle English displays a wide variety of scribal (and presumably dialectal) forms. However, this written diversity does not necessarily mean that there was a greater variety of spoken forms of English than could be found in pre-Conquest England. Further, these written forms may not always be an accurate representation of the English as spoken at that time, although they are generally assumed to be more accurate representations of speech than those found in Old English texts. Rather, this diversity suggests the gradual end of the role of Wessex as a focal point and trend-setter for writers and scribes, the emergence of more distinct local scribal styles and written dialects, and a general pattern of transition of activity over the centuries that followed, as Northumbria, East Anglia, and London successively emerged as major centres of literature, each with their own particular interests.


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